Landlords oppose ban on bedsits planned for early 2013
It will be illegal for landlords to rent out bedsit-type accommodation under new regulations due to come into force at the end of next month.
From February 1st all rented accommodation must have its own sanitary facilities in a separate room, which means the days of rented rooms sharing a single bathroom will come to an end.
Jan O’Sullivan, the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, said local authorities would enforce the new measures and have stronger sanctions available to them.
“Landlords have had four years to prepare for these new minimum standards and there is no excuse for non-compliance,” she said. The penalties for failing to comply with the regulations can amount to fines of up to €5,000 or a six-month jail term.
Latest available figures indicate there are about 5,000 bedsits in Ireland, mostly located close to Dublin city centre.
However, groups such as the Irish Property Owners’ Association oppose the new regulations and say many landlords cannot afford to renovate their properties or access loans to upgrade them.
The association adds that the new measures will result in properties being closed down, resulting in significant numbers of people being placed at risk of homelessness. The association is calling on the Government to retain this type of accommodation which it says is “useful, necessary, affordable and centrally located”.
In contrast, the housing charity Threshold says bedsits should have no place in the Irish housing landscape. The group says that for too long many tenants – often single men who are experiencing social or economic problems – have been forced to live in “grossly degrading conditions”.
There are reports, however, that some landlords are seeking to bypass the new regulations by reclassifying their bedsits as hostels, which have less onerous standards.
Threshold is also sceptical about whether the new regulations will be fully enforced, given the lax approach to the inspection of private rented accommodation by many local authorities in the past.
Ms O’Sullivan insisted that local authorities now had stronger powers to serve prohibition notices on properties, which can prevent a landlord from letting a property until it is in compliance with the standards.
She has pointed to new figures that indicate some local authorities are taking a stronger stance on inspections. In 2011, local authorities issued more than 2,500 improvement notices. While most compliance issues were addressed, a total of 60 prohibition notices were served.
This year, she said, Dublin City Council had been among the most active of local authorities and had initiated about 40 prosecutions under the standards regulations.
The new standards for rented accommodation replace outdated 20-year-old regulations that allowed outdoor toilets, and fireplaces as the only heating source. Part of the push to improve minimum standards is being driven by a major growth in the popularity of renting. In 2006, there were 156,000 rented households. This almost doubled to 305,000 in 2011.
While Government policies have supported home ownership, it says its policies are now “tenure-neutral” and support the development of a strong and better-regulated private rental sector.